A shy, introverted young man working in a busy garage in “Gasoline Alley” covets the heart of his dream girl. In a moment of desperation he offers his soul to the Devil in exchange for the soul of his idol, Rod Stewart. Surprisingly, a glamorous female devil hears his plea and gives him his wish. The reborn Stuart, now filled with confidence, walks out on his dream girl and job to pursue his dream of being Stuart the rock star. Along the way he finds life not as he expected and wants his own soul back to get his girl back. The whole story is told using songs from the extensive back catalogue of Rod Stewart himself.
This is the basic problem with the whole show: the plot is just so thin and the dialogue so stiff that every one of the cast is struggling from the start to fill in the missing bits. Much of the comedy is also of an adolescent schoolboy type. Unfortunately the characters are all one dimensional (almost caricatures) and we are given no background on any of them and no reason as an audience to engage with them. With the best combined wills in the world the cast can not overcome this obstacle. For Ben Heathcote playing Stuart, the problem is even bigger. As the story line has his character wanting to become a rock star, then every Rod Stewart song he sings is always going to be struggling to compare against the original, and that is not something he can escape from. Some of the songs work in their new settings, but others simply do not fit in well or adapt to their scenes. Changing a few words of a few songs may also seem trivial, but at times it changed the meaning of the whole song. Rod Stewart has been at the top of his profession for decades and has stayed there because of his ability to put emotion and sensitivity into songs and make them classics. Rod Stewart understands that you do not need to “shout” a song all the time. Sadly, some sensitive and emotional classics in the show were “belted out” and perhaps this has more to do with the way vocalists were directed to sing for the show than their own abilities to emote a song. It has to be said that the band were excellent throughout, however.
There are some wonderfully crafted songs in this show and with a bit more imagination from the beginning they could have been applied to a great many different story lines that would have avoided the obvious comparisons with Rod Stewart himself all through the show.
Much of the audience from what I could see, however, seemed to be having a good old sing-along with many of the songs in this show, and if that is what you want for your night out, then this fits the bill. If, however, you’re looking for a slick, professional musical, then Tonight’s the Night may well not be for you.
Review by Lisa Sibbald